I hate VH1. There. I said it.

Beth Dykstra

Once upon a time, this network was home to adult contemporary
music videos — junk like Phil Collins and Sting — easy
for viewers to ignore. But something changed. In place of the
frivolous videos are mind-numbing programs like “Behind the
Music,” list shows and “I Love the
’80s.”

“I Love the ’80s” seemed inoffensive enough; I
even partook in the guilty pleasure. It looked at every kitsch
aspect of the decade’s pop culture and lampooned it in a
sarcastic manner. What’s not to like about a show that takes
the time to mock the “Where’s the beef?” lady and
“The Smurfs?” It was addictive; I couldn’t stop
watching. I even began to recognize the D-list celebrities whose
smug insults permeated through the train wreck.

The problem here is that the trend didn’t stop after
“I Love the ’80s” finished recalling all the
excesses of the “Me Decade.” Instead, eager to cash in
on its hit, VH1 set out to destroy popular culture by unleashing
spin-offs on the unsuspecting public. I wasn’t going to fall
for it again. But of course, I tuned in, watching every dull,
uninteresting minute of “I Love the ’70s” as it
played again and again on the network.

The well had finally run dry by the time VH1 decided to return
to the decade that started the whole sardonic series with “I
Love the ’80s Strikes Back.” Even an admitted addict
like me knew it was time to walk away. The concept of
self-satisfying nostalgia had already been done. Inserting
“Mr. Belvedere” in place of “ALF” just
served as a wake up call to those who hadn’t already realized
the reasons they were watching this garbage.

Members of a generation that grew up in the ’80s could
relive their childhoods and laugh along with the talking heads. The
“ ’70s” weren’t as enjoyable, however;
viewers who were enthralled with the original were too young to
reminisce about that time period.

Truth be told, running bad TV isn’t a crime. Running it
nonstop isn’t either. The problem lies in VH1’s desire
to not only run the nostalgia effect into the ground, but also
destroy all pop culture in its wake with its faux-intellectual
dissection of the entertainment landscape.

Sure, the concept worked well with the ’80s and to a
lesser extent the ’70s, but when the network ran “I
Love the ’90s” a mere four years after the fact, it
ruined the entire concept of the show. What had previously been
mildly entertaining in that it lampooned a foregone time was now
reduced to ridiculing Britney Spears in 1999, which doesn’t
really jog the memory in the way the series did before.

The trend of revering the ’90s was bad, and it had
extended beyond the little show on the stupid network. Yet, before
the retro fad had faded back into obscurity, the nostalgic jolt for
Vanilla Ice and slap bracelets was being pumped into homes across
America. Funnily enough, the series failed to mock its own addition
to the decade’s entertainment culture, “Pop-Up
Video.”

The worst part of all of this is how utterly unfunny the actual
program is that spawned this phenomenon. Why should anyone care
what the sidekick from “Ed” thinks about the Backstreet
Boys? This fabricated sense of longing for a decade that just
concluded is unnecessary and ridiculous.

And the sarcastic mocking doesn’t end there. In order to
keep Mo Rocca employed, the show’s format now extends to a
weekly series poking fun at the events of the last seven days. Mock
irreverence and cynicism are used to describe the most inane of the
entertainment world and the dumbest of celebrity behavior.

There is nothing left for VH1’s viewers to feel nostalgic
over, but they aren’t turning away. Instead, they seem to
relish the opportunity to watch these shows and say “I
remember that.” But VH1 has used up all of our nostalgia.

Adam obviously spends too much time watching television and
could use a girl to better occupy his time. E-mail him at
“mailto:arotten@umich.edu”>arotten@umich.edu.

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